Student to Professional Internship Network (SPIN) Guidelines for Biological Sciences Majors
A SPIN internship is a great way to experience a professional field about which you are curious. Such internships are almost always valuable to students, as you either learn that you love you field of interest or you find out that your desired field is actually not what you would like to do. In either case, the internship provides valuable information.
To learn more about how to find an internship and how to register for the internship credits, please see the SPIN website at SEBSspin.rutgers.edu.
The Learning Contract
Once you have found and registered for an internship, it is time to make your learning contract. This is where your academic advisor comes in. What we want to see is that your time in the internship is focused and well spent. To do this, you need to come up with a least three, very specific learning goals. When thinking about your goals, ask yourself "What do I want to be able to do at the end of this internship that I can't currently do?" Think about tasks or skills that you would like to gain. Though this obviously involves learning, try to avoid making a goal that states "I want to learn more about..." as these goals tend to lead to very passive processes.
Steps to meet each goal
Next, each goal needs to have a specific plan to achieve it. If you want to be able to perform a certain task, what is the first step at gaining that task? What is the next step? If you want to learn how to perform a Polymerase Chain Reaction and interpret the results, DO NOT state that you will do a PCR to gain that skill. You MUST think about what the first, second, third, and final steps will be to go from your current state of not having this skill to the final goal of being an expert in this task.
Measure your progress towards each goal
Finally, measure your progress. How are you going to prove to yourself, your supervisor, and your academic advisor that you have these new skills? Will you perform the task for them? Will you document your skills? Will you interpret the results and show it to a variety of experts? Be specific!
Though the Learning Contract does not have to be in the form of a table, the following schematic may help you to visualize the components of a good learning contract:
|Learning Goal||Step-by-step plan||Sample assessment|
|Learning Goal #1||A step-by-step plan for achieving goal #1||A sample assessment for how you are going to demonstrate your knew knowledge or skills|
|Learning Goal #2||A step-by-step plan for achieving goal #2||A sample assessment for how you are going to demonstrate your knew knowledge or skills|
|Learning Goal #3||A step-by-step plan for achieving goal #3||A sample assessment for how you are going to demonstrate your knew knowledge or skills|
A good time to write your learning contract is during the first week of an internship. Before that time, you may have no idea what you are going to be doing, and the contract would be too vague or unrepresentative of your actual learning tasks. If you wait until after your first week, you may get caught up in performing that assigned tasks in your internship without stepping back and asking yourself "What do I want to get out of this?" Also, you will have already learned so much, that the task of creating the contract may seem silly at this point, as you write down goals that you have already achieved.